Last weekend is just that, last weekend. UConn made sure to bounce back from a two-loss series against Cincinnati with a pair of wins in their mid-week matchups, capping things off with a 6-2 home win over Northeastern to get “back on track.”
“I think just playing good baseball, no matter who we’re playing, was important,” head coach Jim Penders said on the mid-week sweep.
Things seemed to work in pairs of twos for the Huskies (21-12, 5-4 The American) Wednesday afternoon with all the scoring coming via two separate two-out rallies.
After a Chris Winkel ground out took Christian Fedko off the basepaths and left John Toppa on third, designated hitter David Langer had no choice but to send a pitch right up the middle to kick off the scoring. Langer, Fedko and Conor Moriarty were the three Huskies to record multi-hit efforts against a 16-16 Northeastern ballclub.
Pat Winkel followed with an RBI base knock of his own, this time to the opposite field, allowing another run to come across. The “Winkel Effect” may be a real thing, as UConn is 11-3 when the freshman backstop starts.
Moriarty continued the early-inning rally with a base hit. Center fielder Mike Woodworth came to bat next and slashed a ball the other way that made its way by the diving right fielder. Two more runs had scored and Woodworth was standing on third by the time the ball made its way back to the infield.
Anthony Nucerino, who Penders called a “nice addition” to the top of the lineup, made the most of his opportunity just two innings later. Following another Winkel double play, this time off the bat of Pat, Moriarty ripped a double and Woodworth walked, setting the scene for a two-out, two-RBI single for the redshirt sophomore, extending his hitting streak to eight games.
Colby Dunlop got the job done on the mound, though he was not credited with the win. In his four innings of work, the Dover Plains, New York native struck out five, while only letting one opposing Husky cross the plate. Dunlop gave most of the credit to his breaking ball for his quality outing.
“I’d say my curveball was there today,” Dunlop said. “Most of my strikeouts came from either that pitch or that [the curveball] setting it up, so I’d say the curve was what was there today.”
“He puzzles me, I’ll be honest. His ball moves so darn much,” Penders said on Dunlop.
“His breaking ball, even when it’s up, if he’s really throwing it and not just trying to flip it in there for a called strike, if he’s really throwing it, it breaks so late that it’s very hard to square up,” Penders added.
Penders wanted to experiment with his bullpen a little bit on Wednesday, getting guys to work that do not usually otherwise. Freshman Jake Sanderson was thrown right into the fire and found out what college ball is all about after walking the only two batters he faced. Though Chase Gardner, the next man out, allowed the run to score, the run was credited to the youngster Sanderson.
Randy Polonia, the first man to come out of the UConn bullpen, earned his first win in nearly three years (May 14, 2016) in his one inning of one hit relief. Penders then used a combination of Avery Santos, Caleb Wurster, C.J Dandeneau and Jacob Wallace to get things done.
Wurster, a reliable arm, had a short day’s work. He entered for a lefty-on-lefty matchup, got the batter to fly out to Woodworth on the first pitch he threw and promptly exited the game to air high-fives, a couple “you’re my hero(s)” from his teammates before he asked for “icy hot, please.”
“It was just kinda a joke how they like the lefty-on-lefty matchups and even to the fullest extent of just one pitch, one out. That’s it for me, let’s ice it up,” Wurster said on his brief appearance.
UConn hopes to have Toppa back in the lineup when the Memphis Tigers come to town on Friday. The senior captain exited the game in the fifth after being hit by a pitch in his first at-bat. Penders said the ball hit a nerve, making the arm go numb and was unable to hit, forcing him to undergo a fluoroscopy procedure. Penders said a similar thing happened last year, but the left fielder was able to return fairly quickly.
Woodworth and Anthony Prato will look to extend their on-base streaks when the Huskies face Memphis in a three game set. Woodworth has reached base safely in 30 straight contests while Prato used a late-inning walk to let his reach 39 games.
“I try not to think about it,” Prato said. “I just try to get on base, let [Toppa] and the couple guys behind me knock me in. I try not to think about it because that’s when I start getting in my head.”
Kevin Arnold is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.